A soft groan escaped the girl’s lips as her eyes fluttered open, staring up at the empty white ceiling above. Her entire body felt weak and achy, and her mind was lost in a fog of half-remembered dreams.
Evelyn lay there for a long time, unmoving. It was so tempting to simply lay there all day and do absolutely nothing. And in fact, there was nothing more she’d rather do. But Evelyn knew she had no choice. Not today, at least.
With a heavy sigh, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and pulled herself to her feet.
She yawned heavily as she took a few steps around the edge of the bed, taking great care to keep her balance as she did so. It had been nearly three days since she’d eaten the Ambrosia, and even something as simple as walking still proved to be a challenge for her. Evelyn had anticipated that the adjustment would not be easy. She’d just never imagined it would be this difficult.
But of course, none of it could even begin to compare to what else she’d been forced to adjust to. Nothing could have ever prepared her for that.
Evelyn crossed around the bed and looked out onto the balcony as the soft morning light crept its way slowly toward the window. It was a beautiful sight, but an extremely uncomfortable one as well. The girl lifted a tiny pale hand and shielded her eyes from the bright light as she drew back from the glass door.
God, I feel like a vampire or something. She said to herself. The thought was almost enough to make her smile. But not quite.
Evelyn made her way out into the hall at a snail’s pace, and the pressure in her lower abdomen told her exactly where she needed to go. She sighed softly as she looked uncomfortably at the bathroom around her, her eyes lingering on the porcelain toilet bowl. It was all still so awkward and alien to her. But I guess I don’t have much of a choice…
The only part of her morning routine that Evelyn found bearable was her daily shower. The feeling of the hot water running down her body and the warm steam filling the air was so calming and soothing. It helped to clear her mind and relax her weary muscles after a night of uncomfortable tossing and turning.
She left the clothes she’d borrowed from Danica in a crumpled pile on the floor and stepped beneath the warm stream of water. Evelyn closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her wet hair, trying to avoid looking down at her naked body as she did so. It was very strange to be so exposed after all the decades she’d spent covered by clothing.
As she stood beneath the rushing water, the thought brought back a memory from long ago…
“Kinda weird, right?”
“Yeah, about as weird as being able to think about a bathing suit and suddenly be wearing one!” Lucas teased, smiling crookedly at her.
Evelyn laughed softly. “I’d never tried it before… I can’t believe it worked! Y’know, I’ve been wearing the same outfit for the past 25 years…”
“Yikes! I guess we’d better sign you up for one of those makeover shows…” He said with a wink.
“Ha-ha. Very funny…”
Evelyn let out a soft sob she hadn’t realized she’d been holding back and bowed her head, her tears mingling with the hot water that streamed down her face.
After drying herself off, Evelyn picked up the old sweatpants and t-shirt from the floor and put them back on. She’d been wearing them for two days straight, and was certain they would soon begin to smell. But what was the point of getting changed? What was the point of anything anymore?
Besides, Krysti said she’d bring me something for today anyway. She remembered as she half-heartedly ran an old brush through her hair. That’ll have to do. She sighed, examining herself in the mirror.
Seeing herself so beautiful again, so whole and alive, should have made her overjoyed. Instead, it just made her feel empty. He never got to see me like this… Each time she looked in the mirror served as a horrible reminder, and sent a wave of nausea through her stomach.
The girl turned away from the mirror and made her way slowly through the hallway and down the stairs to wait for Krystina.
The house felt so cold and empty – last night was the first night that neither Krystina nor Danica had stayed with her. But of course, Evelyn understood. They needed family time right now. And they needed time to prepare for today too.
They’d practically begged her to come stay with them at their house, but Evelyn had refused. She didn’t want to go anywhere. Not now. Maybe not ever.
Evelyn felt her heart racing with anxiety as she crossed through the dining room. She’d avoided leaving the bedroom as much as she could for the past few days. The memories were simply too unbearable, and too fresh in her mind.
Evelyn fought back her sobs as she crossed into the kitchen, trying to ignore the slight pain and rumbling in her stomach. I should really eat something… She thought as she reluctantly pulled open the refrigerator door. But the girl had absolutely no desire to. Evelyn had quickly discovered that she hated the feeling of food in her mouth… but what was even worse was the taste. No matter what she tried, everything just seemed so disgusting and unappetizing.
The girl shook her head and closed the refrigerator door, empty handed. She couldn’t help but wonder what she would have thought of Lucas’ cooking. I bet it was delicious… And even if it wasn’t, she would have eaten anything he’d made for her. She was sure of it.
As she turned away, her sparkling blue eyes fell on the now-empty fishbowl that sat on the corner counter. Her heart sank at the sight of it, as she recalled how excited and joyful she and Lucas had been when he’d found the angelfish at last.
“Lucas…” Evelyn whispered, holding back tears. “This is amazing. You’re amazing… You did it.”
He beamed at her. “I promised I would, didn’t I?”
“Thank you, Lucas.” She whispered fervently. “For everything. I love you so much.”
Evelyn could hear the smile in his voice. “I love you too.”
How could they have known that so many years of failure still lay ahead of them? How could they have predicted the tragedy that would befall the family when Mel got sick? And how could they have ever dreamed of the cruel trick fate would play on them when they finally reached their goal at long last?
Evelyn entered the brightly-lit living room, squinting her eyes slightly as she waited for her vision to adjust to the harsh sun. After a few moments, she finally lowered the hand that shielded her eyes and sat gently on the soft cushion of the couch. It was a relief to be off her feet – Evelyn had been quite unprepared for just how tiring it was to have to stand up or walk around. It was exhausting. How does anyone manage to do this all day? She wondered.
She sat on the couch in silence for several minutes, staring blankly ahead at nothing in particular and letting her mind wander. Evelyn could not help but think back at how overjoyed she’d been when she’d eaten the Ambrosia at last. She’d been so overwhelmed, so excited, and so anxious for getting a chance to live her life anew.
But she never imagined it would be like this.
The girl jumped at the sound of a voice over her shoulder. Within her chest, her heart began racing at the sudden shock… a sensation that simply surprised her even more. Evelyn took a long, slow breath to calm herself before finally speaking.
“Hey, Krysti.” She said softly. “You startled me.”
The older woman crossed in front of Evelyn and took a seat beside her on the small loveseat. “How are you feeling?” Krystina asked, her tone subdued.
Evelyn just shrugged. “Same as yesterday, I guess. And the day before…” She paused. “But don’t worry about me. What about you?”
Krystina’s shrug mirrored her own. “Better, I guess.” The woman sighed. “But not a lot.” She admitted.
Krystina paused, then appeared to be looking Evelyn up and down for a moment. “Are those the same clothes you wore yesterday?” She asked.
The young girl just nodded.
“And did you eat today?” Krystina continued. There was almost a hard edge to her voice as she spoke.
Evelyn shook her head. “I’m pretty hungry.” She admitted softly. “But I guess I just didn’t feel like it.”
In an instant, Krystina’s face hardened. “You need to start taking care of yourself, Evelyn.” She sighed heavily, narrowing her eyes at the girl as she spoke. “I know you were never expecting this… None of us were. Not so soon, at least.” She shook her head. “And I know you’re hurting right now… But I’m hurting too, Ev. My family’s hurting. I need to be there for them right now… And I can’t keep coming over here every day to remind you to eat, for Christ’s sake!” Krystina shook her head before continuing.
“I love you, Ev. You’re family too.” Her tone softened slightly, though her irritation still showed on her face. “But you’ve got to meet me halfway on this. You’ve gotta get out of this house. Staying here’s doing you no good… Do you really think this is what my dad would want for you? After everything he went through to give you this second chance?”
Evelyn was silent for several long moments, considering the woman’s words. “I don’t know what he’d want.” She replied at last. “Because he’s not here to tell me.”
With a sigh of exasperation, Krystina rose to her feet. “Well I do know. And he’d never want to see you like this. Believe me.” She said seriously. “Now, I brought you something to wear.” The woman continued, changing the subject. “I wasn’t sure on the size, but I think it’ll work… You are coming,” Her voice seemed slightly nervous as she spoke. “Aren’t you?”
Evelyn simply nodded.
“Good.” Krystina said flatly. Evelyn could tell she was fighting to keep her emotions in check. “It’s out in the car. I’ll be right back.”
Evelyn adjusted her skirt slightly, cringing inwardly at the scratchy feeling of the lace against her palms. Her tactile senses had become so heightened that, in truth, everything felt unpleasant to her. But there was something about the roughness of this particular fabric that made it more unbearable than anything else she’d worn… And of course, it wasn’t just the material that felt so strange – She hadn’t worn a dress in over eighty-three years.
Still, Evelyn had to admit, it was pretty.
But would Lucas have liked it? She couldn’t help but wonder. She thought back to her conversation with Krystina just a few minutes before.
“Do you really think this is what my dad would want for you? After everything he went through to give you this second chance?”
What would he have wanted? It was a good question.
And over the past few days, her mind had been plagued with many thoughts just like it.
What did his cooking taste like? Did he look any different in the light of the sun? What would he say if he could see her right now? What would the warmth of his skin feel like against hers?
So many questions, and the answer was still the same.
I don’t know. Evelyn hung her head as the tears she’d been holding back all morning finally began to fall. And I never will…